Friday, January 12, 2018

Enter and sign in, please, and welcome to "What's My Line?"

The year 2018 is tootling along unimpeded and nothing of cataclysmic import has happened so far.

That is probably untrue, as lots of things of personally cataclysmic import may have happened to individuals, some of them even to you.

I was speaking on a more general, higher level.

Here's something. Leaker extraordinaire Julian Assange may soon be leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London for Switzerland if certain news articles are to be believed.

In looking up the proper adjective (Ecuadoran, Ecuadorian, and Ecuadorean are all acceptable), I learned something about Ecuador that I did not know before. The currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar. Imagine that. It happened several years ago, but I obviously was not paying attention. The sucre is out; the U.S. dollar is in.

In Spanish, Ecuador means equator. The country is certainly equatorial as said equator passes through it from west to east. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is situated at latitude 0º14' South / longitude 78º30' West. It would be big news today if the equator suddenly decided to pass through Ecuador from north to south, but I digress.

Look at the map below and tell me if you find something else very interesting that you may not have realized before.


Did you see it? Nearly all of South America lies completely east of nearly all of North America. This, friends, is the reason Brazilians speak Portuguese rather than Spanish. Let me explain.

In 1493, after Cristoforo Colombo had returned to Spain from his first voyage to the New World, Pope Alexander VI, apparently his century’s equivalent of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, settled a dispute between Spain and Portugal by drawing an imaginary “Line of Demarcation” 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands to separate future exploration and colonization. Spain would control lands discovered west of the line, and Portugal would control lands discovered east of the line. In 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas moved the line 270 leagues further westward, or 370 leagues from the Cape Verde Islands. (Nobody bothered to check with England, France, Sweden, or the Netherlands, all of which proceeded to explore and colonize parts of North America without so much as a “by your leave” from Pope anybody.) The 1494 treaty gave Portugal a foothold in the eastern part of South America that later would become Brazil. Here's proof:


...and this is the reason Brazilians speak Portuguese today and everybody else in North and South America (except the U.S. and Canada) speak Spanish.

President Barack Obama once drew a red line in Syria. It meant absolutely nothing.

The moral of today's post is simply this: Whether you are Pope Alexander VI in the fifteenth century or Julian Assange in the twenty-first century, or even President Barack Obama, things can often turn out in a very different way from what you may have expected.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 is now history.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
― Omar Khayyám

Or, as we say in America, "you are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine."

Well, we don't say it, but I do.

Frequently.

It's part of my charm.

As Petula Clark used to sing, "When you're alone, and life is making you lonely you can always go d'antan".

Except you can't.

Now go out there and win one for the Gipper.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A very happy new year from...

Mr. and Mrs. Rhymeswithplague:

and their children:
and their children's spouses:
and all of the grandchildren:
In fact, a very happy new year from the entire Rhymeswithplague family:
We hope 2018 will be your best year yet, a year filled with peace, prosperity, good health, and much happiness!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

...and when it goes it leaves us here, and what shall we do for the rest of the year?

If I remember correctly (which may not be the case), the title of this post is the last two lines of a little four-line poem (that's a quatrain, folks) that I learned a very long time ago:

Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer,
And when it goes it leaves us here,
And what shall we do for the rest of the year?

Since I Google practically everything nowadays, it turns out that the first two lines were published in The Real Mother Goose in 1916 under the title "CHRISTMAS" and the whole poem consisted of those two lines alone. I have no idea where the last two lines come from that I learned so long ago (not in 1916, mind you), but learn them I certainly did.

For your information, The Real Mother Goose contains a second poem entitled "CHRISTMAS" that goes like this:

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please to put a penny in an old man's hat;
If you haven't got a penny a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you.

I remember that poem from my childhood as well, but I never committed it to memory. Finding it again was rather like finding an old friend, I suppose, except I haven't found any old friends lately so I do not know what that feels like exactly.

In the South, Christmas is often over on Christmas afternoon. People grow tired of a decorated tree that has stood in their home since Thanksgiving, so they take it down on Christmas Day. The hardiest and most persistent of Southerners may let their tree stay up until New Year's Day, but no longer. And some Southerners are superstitious enough to insist that it come down no later than New Year's Eve. Hardly anyone celebrates Christmas all the way to Epiphany. That would be ridiculous. If you don't know what or when Epiphany is, look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls (as Rowan and Martin used to say), if you have a Funk & Wagnalls, else just Google it on your iPhone.

Cultural rot is not pretty.

One year we didn't take our tree down until February, and then only because we didn't want to be accused of having a Valentine's Day tree. Someday someone brave enough or lazy enough will start a new trend and we'll all keep our trees up until St. Patrick's Day or April Fool's Day or the Fourth of July. Maybe it will be mandated by Donald Trump as a part of Making America Great Again. Southerners would get behind that in a heartbeat.

When I was very small, Santa brought the Christmas tree as well as the presents. Christmas in our little third-floor apartment in Rhode Island always meant that a three-foot-tall tabletop tree decorated with tinsel and other shiny decorations would miraculously be standing on the kitchen table when I woke up on the morning of December 25th. I really don't know how the grownups did it back in those days. I would have been completely exhausted. Maybe they were.

Speaking of short versions of longer poems, here's another one:

THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Actually, this is all that remains of a longer poem that Frodo Baggins said was invented by Bilbo:

THE MAN IN THE MOON STAYED UP TOO LATE

There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
Now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
And laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a hornéd cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced,
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'

So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
'It's after three!' he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

Personally, I like that poem better than anything else J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote, including Elvish languages.

Since time flies when you're having fun, my post must come to an end.

See how easy it is to come up with things to do for the rest of the year?

Here is a link to Project Gutenberg's online copy of The Real Mother Goose so that you can go explore it on your own.

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Adoption day:

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches:

Tonight all three of us will schlaf in himmlischer ruh....

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Loose ends and new possibilities

A very happy winter solstice tomorrow morning at 11:28 AM Eastern Standard Time — that’s 4:28 PM Greenwich Mean Time to those of you in the British Isles — to any Druids who happen to be passing by. That’s when the sun’s direct rays will be crossing the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn or whatever it is and Old Man Winter takes his turn at the helm of our ship, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

To those of you who wouldn’t know a hemisphere from a hemidemisemiquaver, who couldn’t care less about a solstice, winter or otherwise, may I recommend instead ”a Festivus for the rest of us” that was dreamed up by the writers of Seinfeld in 1997, or perhaps Kwanzaa that was dreamed up by Maulana Karenga in 1966, or even Betty White who was dreamed up by her parents, Christine And Horace White, in the spring of 1921, nine months before she made her first appearance on January 17, 1922.

Whatever floats your boat.

As for me and my house, we’ll be observing Christmas with members of our extended family. This month two new things have happened that will change our lives significantly. Mrs. RWP and I have begun sponsoring a little boy and a little girl at a school in Kenya, and we also will be welcoming a new doggie into our household on Friday from the humane society.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A note to my adoring public

All three of you.

I'm kidding.

Or not, as the case may be.

I'M BAAAACK!

And you didn't even know I was gone. Well I was, for several days. My computer has been to the computer doctor getting its little self all cleaned up and scoured and healthy again after I was nearly scammed by some people online who posed as Microsoft/Windows Help Desk/Network Technicians, took control of my computer remotely, and tried to convince me I needed to install a firewall for only (ONLY) $1,999.99 USD or maybe $1,680.00 or maybe a mere $500.00 immediately with 12 monthly payments of an unspecified amount to follow before they would return control to me.

As Howie Mandel might say, "Deal or No Deal?"

I won't bore you with any more of the gory details, but all is now well again in our happy household for a mere pittance of $79.00 to the aforementioned computer doctor. He doesn't make house calls, though. I had to transport my little darling impersonal communications device 20 miles to his place of business and then retrieve it a couple of days later.

As good old Will Shakespeare or Christoper Marlowe or somebody once said, "All's well that ends well."

Moving right along, it appears that unless I get very busy in the next couple of weeks, my total number of blogposts in 2017 will be less than last year's total. My long, slow decline has been in progress for some time now, and it continues apace.

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of both Hanukkah and Advent with Christmas looming on the horizon (it begins December 25th and lasts, remember, until January 6th, when it is supplanted by Epiphany) and just in case I don't get back here at all, let me wish you one and all the happiest of whatever holidays you do or do not celebrate. We will probably not be sending out Christmas cards this year, but I am grateful that we have received six to date, including one from Snowbrush in Oregon and one from All Consuming in England, which correspondents should now consider themselves duly thanked in front of the whole wide world.

Oh, and I hope your St. Lucia's Day observance yesterday was a memorable one.

(Photo by Claudia Gründer, 13 December 2006, used in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0)